Bike tubes are often the last thing on your mind as a cyclist. They’re hidden away under your tires and so are often given very little consideration. We get that, but regardless they are an item that’s worth paying some attention to.
Selecting the best bike tube for your bike and riding style isn’t overly complicated, and choosing the right tube for your specific needs can help to improve your overall riding experience. Our short review covers most of the popular bases.
So, let’s get to it and find the perfect tube for you and your bike…
What is the inner tube?
Unlike a car tire, a bicycle tire that uses clincher tires is unable to create an airtight seal to keep the tire inflated. The lack of a suitable airtight seal on the bead of the tire requires an internal tube to do the job. The inner tube fits under the tire and has either a Schrader, Presta, or sometimes a Dunlop valve that fits through the rim to inflate the tire.
When you’re selecting a tube, you need to ensure you get the right-sized valve as they are not interchangeable. This is because a bike’s rim has a hole that is designed for a specific valve type.
One final thing to be very aware of is that you need to ensure the length of the valve is long enough to fit through your rim, leaving sufficient length to attach a pump.
What size inner tube do I need?
The size of the inner tube you require will be dictated by both the diameter and width of your wheel. These measurements will almost always be printed on the sidewall of your tire. Since inner bike tubes display the same information on the packaging and on the inner tube, getting the correct size should be relatively straightforward.
However, one area that can be a little confusing is where different sizing metrics are used for the same sized inner tubes. Frankly, it’s annoying, but it’s something that we just have to live with.
Let us explain…
If you’re running a 27.5” tire, you need to be aware that this might be described as a 650b tire. Consequently, you’ll need a tube the same size to fit. Similarly, if you have a 29” tire, this might also be described as a 700cc. Even more confusingly, 700cc tires and tubes are also commonly labeled as 28”.
The width of your tubes also suffers from mixing different standards of measurement. You can expect to see millimeters and inches regularly mixed. Happily, things are a little more straightforward here as the smaller sizes tend to be measured in millimeters, and the larger sizes are measured in inches. The crossover point is around 35mm.
When you are buying a tube, you must get the right diameter, or it won’t fit. So far as the width is concerned, you can be a little more relaxed about the size within a few millimeters.
Common inner tube sizes
The most common size for mountain bikes and cruisers is 26” 1.90” x 2.215. This will fit a very large proportion of both kinds of bikes. If you have a bike designed for more off-roading adventures and they have a 26” wheel, these will fit.
For road bikes, 700cc tires are almost the default choice. These days 25mm and 28mm are easily the most popular choices. This means that the inner tubes are likely to be 700cc 20mm x 25mm, or 700cc 25mm x 32mm. Although there are still some cyclists running with 23mm tires, the first of these will fit.
Even fewer cyclists are running with 19mm tires, other than possibly on the track, but these will fit too.
Hybrids, road tourers, and commuters…
Hybrids and commuters will often use wider tires for comfort. Most frequently, a 32mm tire. This means that a 700cc 25mm x 32mm inner tube will be a good fit.
Road tourers and commuters looking for an even more comfortable ride will often use 35mm to 45mm tires. Consequently, they will use the very popular 700cc 35mm x 45mm inner tube.
Inner tube materials
A bike tube is typically made from Butyl rubber, and this is the material you’re most likely to find on a tube. The reason for this is that it’s an inexpensive, strong, and relatively light material. All the inner tubes on our list are made from Butyl rubber.
Originally, inner tubes were made from natural rubber. However, during the second world war, there was a shortage of natural rubber, which led to the development in 1942 of synthetic Butyl rubber. Butyl rubber has the advantage over natural rubber of retaining air eight times more effectively. For this reason, and reasons of reliability, natural rubber is now not used.
Then there’s latex…
The other most commonly used material is latex. However, this accounts for a tiny percentage of the total bike tube market. It’s a compound that is essentially used for specialist purposes.
Latex has an advantage over Butyl rubber in that it’s more supple and gives the rider a more comfortable ride. It also has a better rolling resistance and is reputed to be more puncture resistant. Plus, it’s lighter than a Butyl tube, so come race days, or for hill climbing when weight is king, it’s a great choice.
This is all good.
So, why isn’t everyone using them?
The reason is that they are much more porous than Butyl tubes, which means they have to be regularly inflated. Additionally, they are substantially more expensive. Plus, they are less durable than Butyl tubes.
All in all, Latex tubes are very much the domain of specialized cyclists.
- 1 Top 5 Best Bike Tubes On The Market In 2021 Reviews
- 1.1 1 Continental Bicycle Tubes Race 28 700×20-25 S42 Presta Valve 42mm – Best Bike Tube for Road Bikes
- 1.2 2 Bike A Mile Continental GatorSkin Bike Tires Set of 2 with 2 Continental Inner Tubes – Best Value Bike Tube Set
- 1.3 3 Continental New 2 Pack 26”, 27.5”, 29” Presta Valve MTB Bike Inner Tubes – Best Mountain Bike Tube with Presta Valve
- 1.4 4 Tube 26 x 1.95-2.125 with Schrader Valve – Best Mountain Bike Tube with Rim Strips
- 1.5 5 Kenda Inner Tubes Black 26×1.90/1.95/2.10/2.125 Schrader Valve For MTB Mountain Bike – Best Packaging Free Non Specialized Mountain Bike Tube
- 2 Got everything else you need?
- 3 So, what is the Best Bike Tube?
Top 5 Best Bike Tubes On The Market In 2021 Reviews
1 Continental Bicycle Tubes Race 28 700×20-25 S42 Presta Valve 42mm – Best Bike Tube for Road Bikes
Continental is undoubtedly one of the most respected names in cycling for both bike tubes and bike tires. Though they are most renowned for the all-conquering GP5000 race tires, they make pretty good tubes too.
One thing we love about Continental tubes is the quality of their manufacturing and the attention to detail. The seams and valves are all first-class and give plenty of peace of mind that they’re not going to let you down. The price might not be as keen as other less well-known brands, but we think the slightly higher price-point is worth every cent.
Who is this for?
This tube has a clue for its intended use in the title. It’s a lightweight tube that is likely to find its way into the inside of a racing tire on a road bike. It weighs in at a respectable 105g, which is light by general standards, but may fall a little short for those looking to shave off every last possible gram.
There are plenty of race varieties that fall under the 100g mark for those looking for a super-light Butyl tube. The Maxxis race tube is an excellent example of a tube falling comfortably below 90g.
The tube we’re looking at has a 42mm Presta valve though there are 60mm and 80mm valve options if you’re running with deep rims. The tube will fit fine into any tire between 19mm to 25mm. Though at a push, it would sit in a 28mm tire.
However, they do have a 25mm to 32mm variety, which might give you better options if you’re thinking of changing up to a 28mm tire at some point. Not an unlikely proposition, given their ever-increasing popularity.
A bit heavy…
Overall, this is a good quality and durable race tube. The only criticism we have is that it’s a little heavy for a race day tube. This is more like the kind of tube you’d use for training or on your winter road bike.
- High-quality construction.
- Available in all popular sizes and valve lengths.
- Comes with two tire levers.
- Not the best choice for a race day tire.
2 Bike A Mile Continental GatorSkin Bike Tires Set of 2 with 2 Continental Inner Tubes – Best Value Bike Tube Set
This is a great bundle if you need a set of new tires and a set of tubes. The price is super sharp, and you get plenty for your money. You also get a free safety armband thrown in, which is a nice little bonus. So, if you’re looking for the best bike tube all-in-one value set, this is for you.
The Continental GatorSkin tires are legendary in the cycling community for their formidable capabilities over a mixture of terrains. These are very much a do anything and go anywhere kind of tire. They work best over light gravel and tarmac.
Excellent middle ground…
They don’t have low rolling resistance as you would find with a tire like the GP5000 or the puncture resistance of something like a Schwalbe Marathon GreenGuard. However, what they do have to offer is an excellent middle ground.
They are most suitable for commuters, gravel riders, winter training, or hybrids. The 28mm width makes them less ideal for mountain biking and also long-distance bike touring.
High-level quality control…
The tubes they come with are thicker and harder wearing than some of their race orientated alternatives. These are extra strong and are manufactured with a seamless and mold-cured extrusion. They enjoy the same quality consistency and a high level of quality control as all Continental tires and tubes.
These tubes have a 42mm Presta valve, which features a removable core. This means that if you need to extend the valve when you’re running deep rims, it’s an easy fix. What’s more, if you decide you want to add sealant to either the tubes or tires, you can do that too.
- An excellent value bundle.
- Quality, versatile tires.
- Strong and durable tubes.
- Tubes have a removable core.
- Not the best performers for exclusively very rough or very smooth running.
3 Continental New 2 Pack 26”, 27.5”, 29” Presta Valve MTB Bike Inner Tubes – Best Mountain Bike Tube with Presta Valve
There’s a very good reason that the first three tubes we’ve reviewed so far are all from Continental. In case you’re unsure, which we very much doubt, there’s absolutely no doubt that these are very, very well made indeed.
Why does this matter?
We accept that inner tubes are not sexy. They’re easy to make, and there are plenty of less expensive no-name products on the market. They will all do a decent job, but it’s Continental’s attention to manufacturing excellence and quality control that sets them apart.
Having a tube fail at the valve or on the seal is annoying and can ruin your ride. Although it’s unusual with any tube, you can guarantee that it will be a much less common experience with a Continental tube. Now we’re sure you’ll agree that’s a quality worth paying a little extra for.
Who can use these?
This two-pack of Continental tubes comes in a choice of either 26”, 27.5” or 29”. The width is a standard 1.75” to 2.5”. This puts them very firmly into mountain bike tires or possibly something like a cruiser that’s booted with thicker tires.
They have a 42mm Presta valve that is no surprise as far as valve length is concerned. However, the choice of a Presta valve over a Schrader valve, for a tube of this width, is a little more unusual.
You’ll need some thread lock…
The valve has a removable core to enable you to fill them or your tire with sealant. However, the valves don’t come with any thread lock, such as Loctite, on the valves. If you do intend to install an adaptor, be sure to have some handy, or they may not hold.
- Excellent quality.
- Highly durable.
- Removable valve cores.
- Good two-pack deal.
- The valve does not have a thread lock coating.
4 Tube 26 x 1.95-2.125 with Schrader Valve – Best Mountain Bike Tube with Rim Strips
These are no-name bike tubes that are offered in a variety of different bundles. You can buy just a single tube, a pair or even up to ten if you prefer. The fact is that if you do go for ten tubes, the saving is pretty substantial.
You can also opt for rim strips…
If you don’t have a rim strip, it’s a small item that’s worth putting on your inner rim. It can protect your tube from an uneven or sharp surface that in time might otherwise cause you to get a puncture.
All the different bundles offer the same 26” 1.95” x 2.125” tubes. If you’re unsure of the size, you’ll need to just take a look at your tire. Its size will be displayed somewhere on the sidewall. The tubes use Schrader valves, which are used almost exclusively with these sizes of the tubes. Schrader valves are the same kinds of valves you find on your motorcycle, ATV, RV, SUV, or car tires.
The benefits of a Schrader valve…
One advantage of a Schrader valve is that it tends to be more robust than a Presta valve. Since these are designed predominantly for mountain bikes, it’s an outstanding characteristic to have.
Another useful feature is that should you get a puncture and you find yourself near a tire repair center, you can use their air hose to quickly re-inflate your tire.
Built for the road…
These are relatively thick tubes and are both strong and durable. We would expect them to perform perfectly well over the longer term. However, trying to accurately assess their reliability, compared to a Continental tube, is tricky.
- Plenty of bundle options.
- Rim strips available.
- Thick rubber.
- Schrader valves.
- Unknown performance over the longer term.
5 Kenda Inner Tubes Black 26×1.90/1.95/2.10/2.125 Schrader Valve For MTB Mountain Bike – Best Packaging Free Non Specialized Mountain Bike Tube
Kendra is a specialist in the production of bicycle, motorcycle, and car tires, as well as inner tubes.
They make a substantially wide variety of different bike tires and tubes. If Kendra doesn’t make the size, you need there’s a good chance that no one else does. Kendra is seen as a good value but reliable option for cyclists looking for a keen price together with dependability.
Ideal for non-specialized mountain bikes…
The tubes are 26” and suitable for tires between 1.90” to 2.125”. This is a very common size of tire for mountain bikes. If you have a non-specialized mountain bike, then the chances are that this tube will fit. It’s, of course, always best to check first.
Like nearly all-mountain bike tires, they are fitted with Schrader valves. One of the big positives with these tubes is that they all feature a specially reinforced area around the valves. Since many tears and punctures occur around this area, it offers extra protection and reinforcement on an already strong and durable tube.
We love the lack of packaging…
The tubes come as a pair, and they don’t come with any external packaging. This is a growing trend, and it’s one we agree with and applaud. Not having any surplus packaging that goes straight into the bin anyway has to be better for the environment.
The quality of the tubes is very much a known quantity, and we would be happy to use these with any of our bikes. Happily, despite their strong and dependable build, the price is sharp. We think it’s sharp enough to persuade us to choose these Kendra tubes over an unknown generic quantity with a slightly lower price.
- Good value.
- Specially reinforced area around valves.
- Dependable product and brand.
- Environmentally friendly lack of packaging.
- We can’t think of any!
Got everything else you need?
You’re going to need more than bike tubes to keep your ride smooth. So take a look at our in-depth reviews of the Best Bicycle Tool Kits, the Best Bicycle Pump, our Best Bicycle Seat Review, our Best Bike Chains Review, or the Best Bike Helmets for your money in 2021.
For storage, transportation, and event planning, head to our latest reviews of the Best Bike Racks, the Best 2 Bike Car Racks, the Best Bike Travel Case, the Best Bike Computers, the Best Bike Repair Stands, and the Best Bike Rollers currently available!
Back to the top bike tubes…
So, what is the Best Bike Tube?
There you have it. The truth is that all of the tubes on our list are great picks and will almost certainly cover the needs of most of you reading this. The ideal bike tube for you and your bike will very much depend on your riding habits and the bike you ride on. Consequently, selecting what we think is the best tube of the five is a tricky task.
… and frankly, all Kenda tubes do enough to warrant being our top pick.
We like Kenda tubes because they are well manufactured and come with a specially reinforced area around the valve. These are durable and reliable inner tubes from a manufacturer with a long history that offers a great product but still at a very keen price.
Enjoy your bikes and enjoy your rides.